David Csuka got involved in research during his first year at UC Irvine, looking for ways to combine lab and clinical elements. He sees his research as a valuable step in preparing for medical school and a future career as a physician. David finds that his research experience has also greatly increased his interest in his academic studies; seeing the practical aspects of what he’s learning gives his classes renewed importance. UROP is pleased to recognize David for his passionate pursuit of undergraduate research at UC Irvine.

1. What is your specific area of research (include the name of your faculty and/or laboratory)?

I conduct research in clinical urology with Dr. Gamal Ghoniem. My two main projects involve Overactive Bladder (OAB) syndrome, which is characterized by urinary urgency and frequency, with or without urge incontinence. My first project seeks to establish the inflammatory cytokine Monocyte Chemoattractant Protein-1 (MCP-1) as a potential biomarker for OAB by monitoring urinary MCP-1 levels and symptom severity in OAB patients before and after treatment and in controls. My second project aims to treat OAB by using radiofrequency ablation technology to transvaginally heat and thus denervate the bladder subtrigone, which contains a vast amount of the hypersensitized afferent sensory neurons that are suspected to cause OAB.

2. When and how did you first get involved in research?

I began research during Spring 2018, my first year at UCI. After completing the required safety and ethics coursework, I interviewed for labs that combine both the clinical and bench aspects of research. This blend of the two main types of undergraduate research was the most appealing to me because I wanted not only the biochemical experience associated with a bench lab but also the clinical experience necessary to enter the medical field. I was the most drawn to Dr. Ghoniem’s research group because of its cooperative, student-friendly environment and the opportunity for companionship with residents, doctors, and other medical professionals.

3. How has research enhanced your education?

All too often in an educational setting confined strictly to classrooms, the knowledge that one accumulates is not supplanted with practical experience. Without actual application in a research setting, the material will always have a theoretical or even dry sense to it. However, once the validity of even a small portion of schoolwork is affirmed through research, interestingly one’s motivation in the lecture halls increases greatly. For me, learning about cytokines and other signaling molecules in Biochemistry made a strong connection with my MCP-1 research, and enhanced my performance and drive in both academics and research.

4. What has been your favorite experience with research (include any interesting stories or specific events)?

My favorite research experience thus far has definitely been performing the statistical analysis for the MCP-1 cytokine project. This work allowed me to apply my knowledge from statistics to an actual data set, and it was interesting to see how many different statistical angles just one project can be viewed from. I analyzed patient demographic information, MCP-1 levels before and after treatment, MCP-1 correlation with symptom severity, MCP-1 levels of symptom responders and non-responders, and the diagnostic accuracy of MCP-1 for OAB with a ROC curve. Another great experience in the Ghoniem Lab has been the ex vivo and first en vivo trials of our radiofrequency ablation technology on a sheep model, which has given me both bench experience and a greater understanding of lower genitourinary anatomy.

5. What are your future plans and how has being involved in research helped to prepare you to meet your goals?

After obtaining my undergraduate degree, I plan to enter medical school to become a medical doctor, and then complete residency and fellowship training. My research, which has both clinical and laboratory aspects, has helped me gain clinical and patient experience as well as exposure to a medical environment. Through my research team, I have become acquainted with many different residents, fellows, and doctors. Listening to their stories and being around them has strengthened my determination and commitment towards entering the medical field.

6. What advice would you give to a student interested in pursuing a faculty-mentored undergraduate research project or creative activity?

My most important advice to an undergraduate student interested in research would be to start early. Complete the preliminary research safety course early on and start contacting labs and interviewing right afterwards, preferably within your first two years. Make sure to email many labs, or at least all that you may have even the slightest interest in, so that you find a lab that you enjoy without having to postpone your searches a quarter or two due to lack of open labs. An early start allows you to develop a strong relationship with your PI and the other members in your lab, and also it allows you to become very well established in the lab by the time your undergraduate years have concluded.

Past Researchers of the Month

Sep. '20 Lilyana Vanessa Pham
Aug. '20 David A. Csuka
Jul. '20 Luciano Groisman
Jun. '20 Yara Bojorquez
May. '20 Zaira Barrera
Apr. '20 Iyah Totounji
Mar. '20 Aung Myat Thu
Feb. '20 Gabriela Salcedo
Jan. '20 Sahrai Garcia